Title: Rule #1
Rating: T (but only just)
Disclaimer: If it were mine, Rory would wear the glasses always.
Warnings: Little bit of language. Spoilers, mostly (or at least references, to various episodes from series five and six).
Notes: Not something I ever intended to write, but the idea struck during the episode and I was helpless to resist. Please pass judgement, however harsh said judgement may be.
It sometimes felt like she had spent half of her life waiting for him.
Since the first time he arrived, she had been waiting for him, that strange man in the blue box who destroyed her garden shed and ate half the food in the house. Her aunt grounded her for that, and forbade Rory and Mels visiting her for a week, because she couldn't exactly explain that she had let a stranger into the house and offered to feed him anything he wanted rather than eaten it all herself. She didn't care about the grounding, anyway. The Doctor, her Raggedy Doctor, was coming for her.
She was going to go away with the man who came to fix the crack in her wall. She was going to see the world, the universe, in his blue box with a swimming pool in the library.
Only he didn't come back.
Not that night, when she sat outside on her suitcase in the cold darkness, not the whole week she was supposed to be grounded (except her aunt forgot, of course, and she spent each day sitting next to where the shed once was, ignoring Mels' requests – demands – to come out and play. Rory never begged, just went along with anything and everything they suggested; he was happy just to sit and wait with her, without really knowing what it was they waited for), not even that year. Not for many years, when she had unpacked her case and given up on waiting for him, her real imaginary friend.
That wasn't his fault, he told her. Technical difficulties, he said, because the TARDIS was still adjusting.
She believed him, forgave him, wrapped up in the chaos of aliens and bow ties and boxes that were bigger on the inside. She ran away with him, forgetting her life, responsibilities, everything; the biggest case of pre-wedding jitters known to man, the absolute zero of cold feet.
He came back for her. He said he would, and he did.
He had said he wouldn't be long, though.
They came to rescue her and Melody, too, the Raggedy Doctor and the Last Centurion.
Or, they rescued her, at least.
It was no one's fault that that woman had stolen their child, their beautiful baby girl. It was no one's fault that people feared the Doctor so much they created a weapon to destroy him, grew a weapon in her womb, took Melody away and brainwashed her into murdering her parents' best friend.
She still sort of blamed him anyway.
He promised he would find her, Melody Pond, River Song. He did, she knew, or would, because River told them about the man who found her as a girl, whisked her away to see things beyond imagination. Just a girl, an impressionable child – in mind, if not in body – travelling with a man who had lived for centuries and, it seemed to the rest of them, knew everything there was to know. Of course she fell for him. Everyone fell for him, at least a little.
Every mother wanted her daughter to meet a doctor. She just wished the one her daughter met didn't have a capital letter.
At the same time, though, she wouldn't wish away her own time with the Doctor. Why would she? She had the world, it felt like, all the worlds, at her finger tips. She and Rory just had to ask and the Doctor would take them there, or at the very least try (she took them where they had to be, he'd say; not necessarily where they wanted to go, but where they were needed).
And because they were travelling, their daughter was born a Time Lord. Time Lady? The Doctor never really explained how that worked, any of it. All she and Rory (and those who came before and probably those who would come after) knew of the Doctor came from guesswork, inference, putting together the few snippets he gave them whenever he wasn't paying enough attention to what he was saying, or just when he was trying to shut them up.
She wasn't even sure how much of it was true.
"Now, go," he said, and she did. The Doctor said he would come for her, break through the time wall to get her back. Rory was with him, and even if the Doctor would grow tired of them eventually, when they were old and grey and could no longer keep up with him when he told them to run...well, that time wasn't now, and Rory would never let him leave her behind.
They would come for her. She just had to stay safe until they did.
Doctor, I'm waiting, she scrawled on the door in lipstick, then hid inside. A couple of hours, tops, and they would be there.
The thing about years and years of her time being compressed into a single day was that, yes, she didn't get hungry or thirsty after sitting for several hours in the same place, but she didn't get tired either. She just got bored.
There were only so many games a person could play on her phone, only so many times she could try to phone someone and not get anything (though, it seemed, the battery wasn't going down anywhere near as quickly as she expected it would). There were only so many times she could check her watch in a half hour period.
It could be taking longer than the Doctor expected to fix on to her time stream. It could be taking longer than expected for Rory to find her in the facility. It could be anything.
She curled up under her coat by the steadily humming who-knew-whats (they kept her hidden, that was all she needed to know, and she didn't intend to find out anymore), despite the fact that wasn't in the slightest bit sleepy. If she closed her eyes and counted sheep, she would drop off eventually, safe from the hand-bots until her two boys came to collect her.
When she finally realised no number of poorly imagined sheep jumping over poorly imagined fences were going to shut down her brain, she shrugged her jacket back on and opened the door a crack. No bots in sight, and she was going stir-crazy. She had gotten pretty damn good at running over their months with the Doctor, and the hand-bots seemed fairly flimsy. She could handle them, as long as there weren't too many at once, and there was no way she was going to sit around on this planet that the Doctor said was oh-so-fantastic without searching out some of those fantastic things he'd raved about. She would be back before they got there.
She found the Mona Lisa on her third day, and took a certain relish in poking it. If the Doctor wanted her to treat great works of art with any level of respect, he should have shown up before she had the chance not to. No Sunflowers, and those she would have treated with reverence. Poor Vincent, she thought. There was nothing of his.
She didn't touch the blue drippy thing, though. She liked to think she had more sense than that.
On the fifth day, she saw the mountains. They were beautiful, but, she thought, they would have been more so if she hadn't been alone.
Rory should really have found her before then. The Doctor really should have got them there, to her, before then.
But they were coming. They said they would be there, so they would.
Her future-self spoke to her a week in, old and spitefully cruel. They weren't coming for her, she said. They never rescued her, and she wasn't going to help them do so now.
Her future-self didn't need to help them, the liar. Her boys were coming, no two ways of looking at it.
She found the stick after a couple of weeks, and felt all those hideous games of hockey come back to her. Whack the hand-bots in the shins and they went down just as quickly as those bitches at school who laughed at her accent and mocked her hair colour (she played far fewer games of hockey than some girls did; the teacher seemed to think she was unnecessarily aggressive. Mels wasn't even allowed off the bench – something she never once complained about).
She was handling herself just fine.
She did sort of want company, though. The interface just wasn't the same.
Sometime in the second month (one month, eighteen days, three hours, to be precise), she came back to the room – her room, she thought, involuntarily, by that point – and saw that her lipstick writing had faded somewhat. She replenished it, making each letter precise and crystal clear.
They would need to know where to find her, when they arrived.
She didn't remember every single day. There were a lot of them and most were not noteworthy. It would be stupid to expect her to know what happened on all of them.
The day she got the sword, that one stood out. She found it somewhere in the gallery. There was a whole room of weapons: swords, axes, spears, bows and arrows, whips, things she didn't even know what to call them. The sword was the one that felt most comfortable, most reliable. God knew she needed reliable.
They were coming for her, she told herself.
The Rory-bot came soon after. She didn't name it at first. That would just have been creepy.
It was a robot, neutralised, safe. It wasn't a person. It wasn't sentient, self-aware, sagacious. It was just a robot.
It was humanoid, though. That was more than she'd had in a while.
They were coming.
She named him eventually. It wasn't deliberate.
She talked to herself when she was in her room, though it took some time for her to realise she was doing it. There was always someone there, normally, Rory or the Doctor or whoever they had found to 'save' on whatever planet they were on at the time, listening whenever she had someone to say. The interface did her (its) best, but she (it) couldn't answer everything, no matter how much she might have wanted her (it) to.
And every day when she checked the legibility of her message on the door before walking in, it felt like she was being left there for the first time. It felt like her waiting was beginning all over again.
"Rory, would you-" she would begin, then stop short when she remembered that Rory wasn't there to pass her whatever it was she wanted. "Do you remember-" she'd ask, before cutting herself off. The only person with a memory in that room was herself.
It took her months to notice the way the hand-bot tilted its head when she spoke. It was confused, the poor thing. It didn't know what she was talking about, why she never finished her sentences. It was learning, though.
When she was sad, it would look at her in a way that was utterly uninterpretable. She almost believed it was asking her something.
Why do you reject our kindness? it asked in her imagination. Who is this Doctor, this Rory, you speak of? Why are they not here with you?
The face came soon after she started ascribing thoughts to it. Faceless thinking things were frightening, inhuman, no matter how they were shaped. She gave it a smile. She didn't want her bot to be sad too.
"Rory," she would murmur, thinking of the man who must have been very lost not to be there already, and she heard it turn its head towards her. "Rory," she would sigh, during the hours of rest she assigned herself each day (not sleep, never sleep, not once in all the years did she sleep), and it would walk towards the name, or maybe just her voice.
"Rory," she named it, because she thought of him always, and this handless hand-bot was the closest thing she had to him right now.
That was the first day that, when she told herself they would be there soon, a voice in her head replied to her.
Really? it asked.
"Yes," she argued back. "Yes, they will."
Arguing with herself was definitely a sign that she'd been there too long, alone, with only a semi-aware robot and a glowy light that came with a voice for company. It was a pity the interface never argued back, never showed emotion, never did anything beyond answer the most basic of her questions.
She being to wonder if there was some way she could fix that, make her (it) a better companion, just until they got there.
And. They. Were. Coming. she thought, loud enough to drown at the voice that said they weren't.
She built herself armour from anything and everything she could find. The bots needed hand-to-skin contact to knock a person out, so the less skin on display, the better.
There was a display of fashion in the gallery, somewhere between the weapons and the art, the chocolate bar wrappers and the stationery through the ages collection. Beautiful clothes, worn by the universe's most beautiful people. Most of it was hideously inappropriate when one wanted to run quickly and cover up, but she stole a few things that were slightly more practical. Or just more dazzling, sometimes; she spent a day walking around her room wearing Kate Middleton's wedding dress. It wasn't a patch on her own, she though.
Her helmet, though, was her best creation. She modelled it on some she found in with the weapons, mostly Roman, some Greek, a very few Medieval ones. She wore a Roman one for a little while, but it was uncomfortable, horribly so, in more way than it just not fitting properly.
She was stronger. She was armed and well-armoured. She was more than capable of defending herself.
Good, the voice said. You need to be.
She didn't argue back.
She saw the first ten minutes of every single film she could think of. That was how long it took the bots to find out that she was in the cinema and come looking for her.
Sometimes she'd stick around a little longer, fight the hand-bots until there were too many to handle before making a break for the fire exit, just to see a few minutes more of the film than she had thought she could.
After a couple of years, she stopped wondering how things ended.
"Rule number one," the Doctor told Melody-Mels-River, as she lay in a hospital bed watched over by giant cat nun after giving up her future to save his life.
She didn't believe him then. Why would she? He had never let them down so far. She could see no reason why he would in the future.
Her rule number one was different: When the Doctor says he'll do something, he'll do it.
The Doctor said they would be there, so they would be there. She just had to survive, to run, for as long as it took them. And, God knew, she'd gotten even better at running over the years.
Rory had waited for her for millennia, standing guard faithfully, patiently, unquestioningly. The Last Centurion, keeping her safe. She could wait a few years for him. She could wait decades for him, centuries, forever.
Only, Rory had no means of getting to her without the Doctor, the TARDIS, the sonic screwdriver, something. The Doctor would know how to get to her. Rory would not.
But Rory wouldn't let that stop him. Rory loved her. Rory would tear the world apart to get her back, would wipe out whole species and destroy entire planets for her, and the Doctor didn't stand a chance of stopping him.
Rory never gave up on her, so she wouldn't give up on him.
Though, if he could hurry the bloody hell up, she'd really appreciate it. There were only so many years she wanted to waste without him.
Doctor, I'm waiting, she wrote in red lipstick, waxy and smooth, with an arrow pointing to the door handle just in case he had difficulty working it out.
Doctor, I'm waiting, she thought in big red letters, hot and angry, with an exclamation mark at the end just in case the TARDIS' psychic whatever was listening in.
"Rory, I love you," she said to him, whenever she could, whenever she wanted to, whenever she thought it, even though he wasn't there.
"Yet," she corrected herself, belatedly. He wasn't there yet. That didn't mean he wouldn't be, and soon.
The voice only sighed at her.
Lipstick wasn't meant to last forever. You painted it on, then spent the rest of the day rubbing it off. On tissues, backs of hands, other people's cheeks, the rims of glasses.
It wasn't meant to endure through the ages, and hope wasn't able to.
She didn't doubt that Rory wanted to rescue her, because the mere thought of doubting Rory like that was incomprehensible. But she began to doubt that he could do it.
The Doctor, though, he was capable of anything. She didn't doubt his ability.
You doubt his wish to save you, the voice said, not quite a question, not quite a confirmation. Somewhere in the middle.
Well done, it said. You're learning.
They would come for her.
No. They won't.
Rory would come for her, her Rory, always and only hers.
No. He isn't able to.
The Doctor would come for her.
No. He doesn't want to.
For her daughter, for River Song, if not for her. He loved River, or would soon enough. River wouldn't let him leave her behind.
No. The Doctor leaves everyone behind. Not even River can make him do something he doesn't want to.
Rory, then. Rory would make him. Rory would rip him to pieces if necessary.
No. The Doctor is good at surviving. Rory can't threaten him. If the Doctor wants to save you, he will. If he doesn't, nothing will change his mind.
"No," she said aloud. "No, he will be here. He said he would."
And you believe him? Really?
I'm in your head, the voice replied, reminded, calm and simple. Do you think you can lie to me?
"I'm not lying, I'm not." She awaited the sceptical reply, the niggling, needling murmur inside her mind that picked clean all her insecurities. It was only when it didn't come that she realised it didn't have to. She didn't really believe herself.
Rule number one, she thought, walking straight past the smeary, faded red on the door, the tube of lipstick never leaving her pocket.
"Now, go," he had said. She had trusted him, waited for him, believed all his promises.
"Rule number one," he had said to River. It was the truest thing she could remember him saying.
She should never have expected him, no matter what he had said through the time glass so many years ago.
Rule number one, she thought, in synchronicity with the voice. The Doctor lies.